Red-hot Vince Dunn has emerged for Kraken as top defenseman

Jan 19, 2023, 2:52 PM | Updated: 2:54 pm
Seattle Kraken Vince Dunn...
Vince Dunn of the Seattle Kraken skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Climate Pledge Arena on January 16, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

It felt like every guy on the roster was red hot while the Kraken were on their franchise best eight-game win streak. That streak came to an end Monday afternoon against Tampa Bay and Seattle has now lost two in a row as travel and fatigue made its presence known. The team looks to get back to winning and begins a five-game homestand Thursday against the New Jersey Devils at Climate Pledge Arena.

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The home streak takes the team into some time off with the upcoming NHL All-Star break. One guy who has stayed hot and will be a key player moving forward is Vince Dunn, who in his second year with the Kraken is turning into the Kraken’s best defenseman.

Dunn is sitting on an eight-game point streak going into Thursday’s game, which is not only a personal best for him, but a franchise high as well.

His scoring has been key as well as the play in his own end.

“Dunner’s just playing with confidence and he’s doing a lot of the little things,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “When you look at the way he’s getting us out of the zone, he’s defending well and he’s using his feet, he’s playing fast on our exits. He’s doing a really good job there and that’s a credit to him. It starts with the little things, it starts with retrievals and then the confidence he’s playing with, its evident out there.”

His play in the Seattle end has been great but it’s the offense that has been garnering attention, as it usually does, of late.

Dunn leads all of the Kraken defensemen in scoring and has climbed to 11th in the NHL for defensemen scoring. He has nine goals, three off his career high, and 34 assists, which is a career high. He’s put those numbers up in 44 games and is well on pace to set career highs in nearly every category.

It’s not just the scoring numbers that Dunn is excelling at.

He’s helping the Kraken drive play. When he’s on the ice at 5-on-5 Seattle gets 54 percent of all shot attempts and 53.08 of the shot quality. Seattle simply has the puck more and gets more pucks on net when Dunn is on the ice.

If the analytic numbers aren’t impressive enough, he’s also sporting a career high plus-26.

“For me, it’s just finding open space,” Dunn said. “A lot of my goals right now are coming from the forwards who are doing a lot of great work down low and finding me off the rush. A lot of credit goes to them, everyone is working hard.”

Dunn has always been a solid two-way defenseman but is developing into a consistent offensive threat for the first time in his five-plus NHL career that started with the St. Louis Blues.

He was chosen by the Blues in the second round (56th overall) during the 2015 NHL Draft and had a quick path to the NHL. He spent one year in the Ontario Hockey League with the Niagara Ice Dogs in 2015 – 2016 and one year the following season with the Blues American Hockey League affiliate in Chicago before making the Blues roster for good in 2017.

Dunn has already played in 384 NHL games and won a Stanley Cup (with the Blues in 2019) and is just 26 years old.

Chipping in on offense

Dunn is a smart player when it comes to the offensive side. He has a shot and skills with the puck but he’s not the classic puck carrying defenseman who always has the puck on his stick and ignites the crowd with insane end-to-end rushes.

He’s not the same type of player as San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson or Colorado’s Cale Makar. His offensive game is more reserved which brings with it a more responsible and safer game in his own end.

Rather, he picks his spots and has a knack for knowing, or sensing, when to jump into the rush and get shots on the goal.

Seattle has Dunn quarterbacking its top power-play unit where he utilizes his good vision and judgment to work with four forwards when the Kraken have the extra man. He has yet to score on the power play but does have nine assists so far this season.

Perfect partner with Adam Larsson

Dunn has played almost exclusively on defense with Adam Larsson and the two make up the Kraken’s number one pairing.

It’s a perfect match with Larsson, who does have some offensive ability, being more of a stay-at-home defenseman who often will hold the fort allowing Dunn more freedom offensively. The two are trusted by Hakstol to not only play big minutes for him but most nights end up facing the opponents’ top forward line.

The two have played all 44 games together and have been on the ice for 51 goals scored and just 26 allowed at 5-on-5 play. They work well together and despite different personalities have found a way to play at a high level together.

As these last five games before the break unfold, Dunn and Larsson will be huge in not only offense supplied by Dunn but by the defense they play together.

Dunn is in his last season of his $4 million per year contract and will be a restricted free agency at season’s end. The two sides will work on a deal this offseason but you can bet that Dunn is in the long term plans for the Kraken.

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